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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Address by Jean-Claude Juncker on the report to the European Parliament of the results of the European Council of 22 and 23 March 2005

Date of Speech : 13-04-2005

Place : Strasbourg

Speaker : Jean-Claude Juncker

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : Plenary session of the European Parliament

Mr President,

Mr President of the Commission,

Members of Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 12 January, in this chamber, I introduced the Luxembourg Presidency’s programme for the next six months.

Today, in accordance with tradition, I will make a brief introduction of  the results of the recent European Council. It will be brief, and because there are so many Members of Parliament present, it may not add anything to the debate. And I will not add to the debate, other than to tell you that we agreed on the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact after bitter debates, after manly and heated exchanges, even if female voices were heard in this stormy debate. The result we arrived at is balanced since it gives stability all the importance it deserves and since, by implementing the stability rules, it does everything not to interfere with the growth opportunities that exist and that must exist in Europe. To this end, we did not touch the fundamental principles of the pact but we expanded its scope since, from now on, the Stability and Growth Pact will apply to every stage of the economic cycle and will do so in a diverse manner.

This reform that we achieved is the outcome of excellent cooperation, and I wish to underscore that here – between the Commission and the Council, and more specifically between the Presidency of the Commission and the Presidency of the Council, and between the Monetary Affairs Commissioner and the President of the Council of Finance Ministers. For me, it was a genuine pleasure to be able to work hand-in-hand with the Commission.

Everything has been said about the reform of the pact and much of what has been said borders on lies. Those who say that all deficits will be permitted after the pact is reformed, and those who claim that from now on the message has been sent that Europe can now take the path of skyrocketing indebtedness, are sadly mistaken. The basic rules of the treaty have not been changed, nor have those of the pact. The 3% and 60% criteria are still the cornerstone of a system that will continue to be based on clear rules and obvious rules of law.

I would like to repeat here that as soon as we observe that the 3% value has been exceeded, the Commission will write a report and the relevant Member State will be closely monitored. I wish to state here that, as has always been the case, exceeding the reference, i.e. the 3%, does not automatically result in launching the infringement proceeding. Some make this out to be an innovation, and it is because they are not very familiar with the Treaty of Maastricht which, since 1992, has stipulated this rule. The Commission’s rights have not been weakened, rather the Commission’s rights have been strengthened with the reform of the pact. Consequently, there is no reason to be seriously concerned, but we must ensure that the new rules are applied logically, and over the coming months, and when decisions arise that we must take, we shall do everything to prove that the pact is not dead, but that it continues to be applied and to be applicable.

The second item on the agenda of the European Council in Brussels was the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy. You will recall that at our debate of 12 January, there was great concern that the Council would unravel the fundamental balance of the Lisbon Strategy. After the Commission presented its communication on the Lisbon Strategy on 2 February, and after the Commission’s communication on the social agenda, the Commission and Council – acting together once more – successfully maintained the basic balance of the Lisbon Strategy. Of course, we refocused the Lisbon Strategy by concentrating on growth and competitiveness, but despite that we did not abandon the social and environmental dimensions.

As I did a few months ago, I must observe that Europeans still do not grasp the importance of the Lisbon Strategy, because we speak of competitiveness, productivity and growth, and these are concepts and expressions that do not speak to the heart of Europeans. In fact, what Europeans want is work, they want to be able to start a business, obtain the financing to do so, have open markets available to them, and high-tech communications and transport systems. They would like to be able to better reconcile their careers with family life and to be in sync with the new technologies and planet Internet. They want a good education for their children; they want general services to be available to them and they want public services that work well; they want to have decent pensions; they want to live in a clean environment. And all of these are addressed in the Lisbon Strategy. Moreover, to give credit to the idea that the governments and the Commission from now on will have to be more pro-active and more consistent in their way of implementing decisions under the Lisbon Strategy, we have grouped the steps to be taken around three central themes concentrated in 10 areas that are illustrated in one hundred individual measures.

There are many players in the Lisbon Strategy: There is the Commission; there is the European Parliament; there are the national parliaments; there are the national governments; and there are the local and regional authorities. All these authorities and all these bodies must come to own the Lisbon Strategy. I say this particularly for the national governments which, because they must answer to their national parliament and European public opinion, they must assume the responsibility of doing everything to ensure that the components that fall under the Lisbon Strategy are seen as very important.

I will say a word about the directive that bears the name of one former commissioner. On 12 January, I told you that the Presidency would say yes to opening up the services markets and no to social dumping, and that it would like for all the social dumping risks to be eliminated from this proposed directive. This is what the March European Council confirmed, because it asked the players in the legislative procedure to make substantial changes in the proposed directive, necessary so that all the requirements of the European social model would be observed.

On this point, as on others, I would like to go on record as saying that the impression, just like the suspicion fed by ignorance, which would like to turn the current Commission into the engine of a neoliberal Europe, is incorrect. Such was my perception when I discussed the directive on the opening of services in particular with the different Commission colleagues. It is a proposed directive that is the outcome of the cogitations of the old Commission. Together with the other European institutions, the new Commission will make the changes in it that the European social model requires.

Mr President, we had the goal of clearing up a misunderstanding that has taken root over the past years, since we wanted to demonstrate, by doing what we did, that there is a difference between the sustainable development strategy and the Lisbon Strategy. It is wrong to claim that sustainable development is the third pillar of the Lisbon strategy since sustainable development is a horizontal concept that affects all other policies and that, therefore, applies to everything that falls under the Lisbon Strategy, such as the environment, fishing, agriculture, public finance and social security. Therefore, sustainable development is what in English is called an over-arching principle that must be observed in implementing all the policies that the European Union seeks to implement. And so the Presidency will take the initiative to have  the June European Council adopt a statement on the guiding principles of sustainable development, and the statement will serve as a basis for renewing the sustainable development strategy adopted in the Gothenburg European Council in 2001.

Based on a decision taken by the Ministers for the Environment, we have reviewed all the policies that we must keep in mind when raising the issue of climate change. You have seen that the European Council was satisfied with the coming into effect of the Kyoto Protocol, and more particularly with its ratification by the Russian Federation. Now a medium and long-term Union strategy must be prepared to fight climate changes, and this strategy will have to be consistent with the objective of an increase in the annual world temperature that must not be more than 2 degrees greater than the levels of the pre-industrial period. In view of the emission reduction required at global level, all countries must work together over the coming decades. The Union estimates that, for the group of developed countries, it will be necessary to plan to reduce profiles by about 15 to 30% by 2020 relative to the reference values stipulated by Kyoto and, after that, in the sprit of the conclusions of the Council of Ministers for the Environment, reductions of 60 to 80% by 2050.

During the Brussels European Council, we raised a certain number of issues pertaining to external relations. You noted with great pleasure what we said about the reform of the United Nations. We took the opportunity of the Council meeting to revisit the painful subject of Lebanon, a country that goes from one misfortune to another and deserves the solidarity of Europeans. Consequently, we have asked Syria to quickly carry out the commitments made to withdraw all troops and all intelligence services from Lebanon.

Mr President, I would have liked to be more thorough, but I will do so at the end of the debate, if there is to be one.

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This page was last modified on : 14-04-2005

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